School of Communication offers new Sports Communication program

Written By Amanda Andrews, Editor Elect

The School of Communication is offering a new sports communication undergraduate major set to debut for the Fall 2021 semester. The incoming program was announced Monday, Feb. 15. 

While the School of Communication has offered sports communication-related classes in the past, this is the first time sports communication classes have been offered as part of a single, official undergraduate program. The four-year program requires a total of 122 credits and will include many pre-existing media courses in the School of Communication and sports-specific courses such as sports broadcasting and sports PR and advertising. 

Dr. Bernie Ankney had the idea for the program before starting as the dean for the School of Communication back in June of 2020, having set up a similar program at the previous institution he worked for, Samford University. 

“It’s a program that attracts 18-year-olds…there is a lot of interest in 18-year-olds in sports,” Ankney said. “If you look at peer institutions to Point Park, Ithaca [College], Butler [University], Bradley [University], their sports communication programs tend to bring in about 100 and up to 130 new students.”

Enrolling new students from all areas is a priority for Ankney, a goal he believes this program will help to achieve. 

“Growing enrollment is important. And I also believe it’s going to strengthen Point Park’s School of Communication dramatically. I think we’re going to be able to recruit kids from a broader geographical area,” Ankney said. “I have no doubt that kids on the East Coast, for example, will find this a very, very strong program and be interested in coming to Point Park and working with Point Park Athletics their first couple years and The River States Conference, and then working for the University of Pittsburgh and the ACC during your junior year, and into your senior year, we hope you can do internships, alongside our alumni working with the Pirates, Steelers and the Penguins.” 

Within the program are built-in partnerships with Point Park groups and major Pittsburgh sports organizations. In the first few years of the program, students will work with the Point Park Athletics Department to help broadcast athletic events, take photography, handle videography, experiment with podcasting, and work with social media platforms, according to Kevin Taylor, the Director of Athletic Communications. 

Taylor said that practicing these skills will help reinforce the program’s focus on sports broadcasting, sports photography, sports podcasting, and sports public relations. 

“We’ve had students doing that through the years already, but this will formalize it in conjunction with the academic side of things and keep us having a constant flow of students that are covering our events but also the constant flow of students who are getting that great experience,” Taylor said.

Students will also have opportunities to produce content with the River States Conference in their freshmen and sophomore years. When students are juniors and seniors in the program, they will be able to work with the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Network and intern or do co-ops with organizations such as the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“I think this is going to be able to make the partnerships stronger as I look at it,” said Dean of Students Keith Paylo. “There’s the comments that are made that if you look at the Penguins organization, it’s like little Point Park up there because of connections that we have.” 

“I love the idea that Point Park is really making a name for itself in the area of sports,” Ankney said. “And I think this will be a program that will complement our very strong SAEM program.”

The sports communication major is an additional academic sports offering besides the sports arts and entertainment (SAEM) program and the Pittsburgh Center for Sports Media and Marketing, something Kevin Taylor said would likely help athletics at Point Park and the university.

“I think like with sports, arts and entertainment management (SAEM), it’s one that student athletes would gravitate towards, but that would be just one part of the broader reach sports communications would have as a whole,” Taylor said. “It definitely would have an interest for those who are student athlete recruits, but it’s so wide-ranging just for general student recruitment that I think it could really make an impact on the university as a whole.” 

Ankney said that multiple students have already reached out to the School of Communication to inquire about the program. Enrollment for the program is currently open, with classes set to begin in the Fall 2021 semester.